More people should visit Antarctica, metaphorically speaking, on their own. That is one of the conclusions I have reached, one of my recommendations: explore something, even if it’s just a bookshelf. Make a stab in the dark. Read off the beaten path. Your attention is precious. Be careful of other people trying to direct how you dispense it. Confront your own values. Decide what it is you are looking for and then look for it. Perform connoisseurship. We all need to create our own vocabulary of appreciation, or we are trapped by the vocabulary of others. Intensity, uniqueness, variety, specificity—these are qualities I value, but perhaps you will not. Size is important to me: capaciousness in a work of fiction, length in a career. What do you value? Why? Does reading have more merit than any other way of passing time? Is it useful to read randomly? alone? in discussion groups? bad books? old books? new? I wish that literary criticism could be built back up on the ground of experience, closer to book reviewing than academic theory, with a bias toward enthusiasm, with new Matthew Arnolds putting in their two cents about the best that was ever thought and said and new Nabokovs and Wilsons puncturing cant.
Phyllis Rose, The Shelf, p. 215